Send-off Celebrates Student and Rehabilitated Bald Eagle

February 25, 2022

Just before noon yesterday, students and staff met in a quiet pasture just beside the wooded Great Swamp. They gathered to witness a Bald Eagle’s release back to the wild. What made this moment truly poignant was the incorporation of a Green Chimneys School student. This month, Brandon will be discharged from residential treatment. In wishing the Bald Eagle well, we also celebrate Brandon’s growth and upcoming leave. During his time at Green Chimneys, Brandon has developed coping skills and job training that he will carry with him.

Supporting therapeutic growth of children with special needs

“Brandon has grown in so many ways,” explains Social Worker Kristin Huffaker. “He is much more mature and has developed a greater sense of self. He is loving, compassionate, and is such a wonderful help to those he cares about, especially to the horses and animals on campus.”

At Green Chimneys, it is not uncommon to discover Brandon up at the Horse Barn, lending a hand in the garden, or greeting peers and staff throughout campus. His smile is distinct. Brandon is a hard worker and is motivated to keep growing. Kristin and our transition planning team have been supporting Brandon and his family in mapping out life beyond Green Chimneys. Brandon will be transitioning to adult housing, which will allow him to continue to expand responsibilities and independence – two of his goals. Job prospects are being explored. And with a farm nearby, all are planning to maintain Brandon’s connection to horses and animals.

Helping Bald Eagles heal

The Bald Eagle that was released is one of actually two Bald Eagles that have been rehabilitating at Green Chimneys. The injured eagle was brought to the Paul C. Kupchok Wildlife Center last fall, while another eagle only arrived in January. Thanks to help from good Samaritans, the eagle was rescued in South Salem, New York. Additional rescue support was provided by our friends at Animal Nation, and the eagle was assessed by Dr. Nowowiejski of Southeast Animal Hospital. Under the care of wildlife experts at Green Chimneys, the bird of prey was able to rest, access good food, and gain weight. After a week, he was introduced to the other Bald Eagle rehabbing in our flight cage. The newbie seemed to thrive from the company and soon the two began perching with each other. This is common behavior of eagles in the wild, especially at this time of the year when hundreds of Bald Eagles can be seen soaring and perching along the Hudson River.  

When animals and nature are incorporated into school and dorm life …

Green Chimneys students, Brandon included, learn from the rehabilitation process and in caring for the nearly 50 permanently injured birds of prey that live at Green Chimneys. In fact, the entirety of the Sam and Myra Ross Farm & Wildlife Center and its 300+ inhabitants are a core component of the therapeutic education and residential treatment programs. Our students, children with mental health or developmental disorders, benefit from animal-assisted activities and therapies in a range of ways. From one-on-one sessions with social workers on the farm to wildlife or animal science classes to riding lessons and scheduled time assisting with animal care, Green Chimneys students are building relationships, enhancing communication and self-awareness, and practicing coping strategies.

Growing, timing, and taking off

For the Bald Eagle who arrived last fall, more time to heal is necessary. His release is likely, and we await more indications of his readiness. As for our student body, many academic and therapeutic goals are being pursued with the support of staff. And with both of these processes, we respect that timetables are not one-size-fits-all. For Brandon and the newly released Bald Eagle, we send them off with pride and best wishes. And we’re confident one of the two will keep in touch. 

Learn about our special education school and residential treatment program